Looking through the trees towards one of the tree plantations off Granite Road

The Quadra Project: Challenging the way people think about forestry

Prior to embarking upon a literary career in 1985, Ray Grigg taught English, literary history, fine arts and comparative world religions in British Columbia’s High School system. Since then, he has written a long list of books on Taoism, Zen and environmental issues. Grigg was also the author of a column called ‘Shades of Green,’ which ran in the Campbell River Courier-Islander for 15 years. A little over half a year ago, he started writing a series of articles called ‘the Quadra Project.’

Screenshot of Ray Grigg taken during the interview

“What I’m trying to do is revision the way in which we understand forestry taking place on Quadra Island. We have to move outside the notion of annual allowable cut to ecological restoration and also carbon sequestration,” explained Grigg. “This has been one of the primary recommendations of the old growth strategic review panel by Merkel and Gorley who were charged with the responsibility of redesigning what forestry should be like in British Columbia. That was in 2019.” 

Grigg blames the subsequent protests at Fairy Creek on BC Government’s failure to honour its promise to implement this report. 

He says the corporatization of logging has led to the decimation of the forest industry and gutted mills throughout the province. 

Logs from Quadra Island, for example, are not processed on Quadra, but exported to foreign markets in Japan, China, Taiwan, the United States etc.

“The other, I think more pressing issue, is that we are in the middle of the six major species extinction in the history of the planet and we are also confronting an ecological climate crisis,” said Grigg. “What we need to do is we need to think in terms of carbon sequestration, and that is the greatest positive contribution that Quadra Island could make, and I think Cortes Island and many communities in British Columbia, towards solving  the carbon climate crisis. We need to change our whole way of understanding how forests work.”

A number of reports state that British Columbia is now a net producer of carbon dioxide. 

“I read one study that suggested that if British Columbia were a separate country,  its carbon production and its forest management would be about three times worse than Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia.”

He says the tree plantation system is not working.

“They’re not forests, they are like crops of wheat.  They’re just stems and stems and stems with nothing living underneath them. No biodiversity, no ground life, no lights, no firms, no variety of species. It’s a massive production of trees that they then go in and cut with feller bunchers and there is no employment involved. It’s a massive production process and it’s the kind of thing we really need to avoid. It’s a collective environmental ecological folly, and we have to get beyond that,” he said.

“We have on Quadra, a Special Management Zone, which was established under the Vancouver Island Land Use Plan, and it stipulates that 25% to 33% of Quadra Island should be old growth stands  by 2050. Well, they call old growth stands or trees that are 80 plus years old, which means that they could log most of Quadra Island and still meet that criteria in 2050, if there’s any planet left in 2050.”

About 8,000 of Quadra Island’s special management zone is actually tree farm license. This is divided into various age classes of trees:

  • About 3.8% is old growth, trees which are +250 years old. 
  • Only 1.1% are between 120 and 250 years old
  • 38% are 81 to 120 years old 
  • The remainder is 80 years and younger

Local residents are concerned about Mosaic logging in the Hyacinthe Creek watershed. For the first time in local memory, the creek went dry last year and these are concerns that this is related to logging in the upper region of that watershed. 

Grigg explained that the provincial government and forest industry have forged a forest stewardship plan which is “almost impossible to change.”

“They’ve determined really how it’s been written by lobbying the government and it’s almost a foolproof document that is impossible to change,” he said.  “That has been really discouraging from our perspective and I think you will probably find exactly the same problem on Cortes.  They will attend to all of  the literal accuracy of that document and the dotting of the ‘i’ and the stipulations and the forest practices act and you will find that it’s almost immovable. So I would say for Cortes, Mosaic on your island is a disaster. It’s no longer compatible with the way we live on  Quadra and the way we want our island to be treated.” 

While he hopes the Old Growth Strategic Review will bring some perspective into the way the province treats its forests, ‘there are all kinds of loopholes’ in recent legislation. 

Similarly, Grigg said that aside from some minor details Mosaic’s forestry management plan for 2017 and 2022 ‘are almost identical.’

“Even the term ‘management plan’ is a dubious term because they don’t have to stipulate exactly what their management plan is anymore,” he said. 

They do consult with Sierra Quadra, the trails committee and the recreation society – but as a courtesy, not an obligation. 

“In some cases they have complied with the suggestions that have been made  by those people on Quadra who they’ve been consulting with, in other cases – not,” explained Grigg.

“We have a group of people who have been working more closely with Mosaic who have gone on site and said, ‘Well, if you put the road here, you don’t have to take down those old trees.’ And they say, ‘Oh yeah, I wonder why we didn’t think of that.’ So there is a tendency for them to put roads in those places where  they want to take out old trees. We’ve noticed this as an inclination.  We’ve also noticed that some of their road work is questionable. So we’re frustrated.”

There was a blockade on the Bison Creek watershed, which ended when Mosaic agreed to log somewhere else, but the situation may reoccur if they return. 

A Quadra Island cutblock – Photo by David Broadland via Sierra Quadra

Grigg points out that corporations like Mosaic are driven by profits and do not like to lose their proverbial bottom line. 

“This is at odds with the well-being of not only Quadra Island specifically, but the province more generally and the entire world for that matter,” he said. “We really have to change the way we look at how we function on this planet. Protecting trees is probably the most significant, positive contribution we could make to solving this problem.” 

Top image credit – Looking through the trees towards one of the tree plantations off Granite Road – Roy L Hales photo

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